Friday, February 3, 2012

Complexity Theory and Urban Planning

by Michael A. McAdams

Urban environments are complex. Urban areas are the environment for multiple activities such as people working in offices, shopping, purchasing services, interacting with friends and family, eating at restaurants, purchasing and constructing structures (homes, banks, factories etc.) and not so benign ones such as crimes involving persons or property. Interacting and influencing this intricate maze of human activities are governmental and non-governmental bodies at all scales (local, regional, national, global). Nevertheless, these social, political and economic activities operate not in a vacuum but within the physical and built environment with its opportunities and constraints. Such is the environment that urban planning must confront and challenge to effectively guide urban development. Within the last few decades, urban planners, urban geographers and others have noted the inadequacy of using existing scientific methods and organizational structures based on concepts tied to logical-positivism such as rationalism, reductionism and comprehensive long-range planning to address the problems and challenges of the urban environment. There have been attempts to revise or modify the planning process with various approaches, but none could have categorized as being even partially effective. The advent of complexity theory as a vehicle to understand and plan urban areas is opening up new avenues of thoughts in both physical and social sciences. Complexity theory, although having roots in physics, mathematics and computer science, has developed a set of metaphors that are presently being used outside of these disciplines in the social sciences. This 'language' of complexity provides the bridge between complex systems modeling and practical applications. Although not a panacea, it is certain that the methods tied to the present practice of urban planning are inadequate to address the evolving urban environment. This essay will introduce complexity theory and the associated metaphors, discuss their relationship in analyzing urban areas and present suggestions of how urban planning might be revised to incorporate complex theory to be more effective.

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1 comment:

  1. City planner collect all important element of city and town and analysis it. Thanks for sharing this great information regarding urban planning. Thanks for sharing it is really informative post.
    urban planners